SINGAPORE – The study, conducted by scientists at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), examined the possible link between COVID-19 infection, and the formation of blood clots; which highlights the potential long-term effects of the viral disease that has affected millions across the globe.
In a controlled study, published in the peer-reviewed journal eLife, researchers examined blood samples from 30 individuals who had been infected with COVID-19 shortly after their discharge from the hospital. In all 30, blood vessel damage was observed, which is thought to be the result of a lasting complication associated with COVID-19 infection.
“people with preexisting cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension and diabetes are at higher risk of developing blood clots concerning COVID-19 recovery”
“With more people recovering from COVID-19, we started hearing from clinicians about patients returning with blood clotting issues after they had been discharged and cleared of the virus,” said Christine Cheung, Assistant Professor of NTU’s Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine and lead scientist in the study, in a press release earlier today. She added that people with preexisting cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension and diabetes are at higher risk of developing blood clots concerning COVID-19 recovery.
The link between COVID-19 and blood clots is believed to be a result of an excess of circulating endothelial cells (CECs), which was found to be twice the normal level in patients recovering from COVID-19. These cells, which had been shed in response to damaged blood vessels, reveal to scientists that blood vessel damage is still a threat to recovering patients.
Another important discovery made by the scientists was ‘unusually high numbers of T cells (a type of immune system cell that fights foreign particles) present in the blood.’ It was also determined that recovering patients also continued to produce a protein known as cytokines (a type of immune system protein that activates the immune response to viruses and pathogens) after recovery.
Both the increased levels of CECs and cytokines are thought to suggest that the immune system in patients who are recovering from COVID-19 may remain overly active once the virus has been mitigated. These two lasting effects are what scientists believe to be the root cause of potential cardiovascular complications which can potentially cause even more damage and increase the risk of blood clot formation.
NTU has commented that the study should be used to help inform and formulate guidelines for post-hospitalization care for recovering COVID-19 patients, and especially for those with underlying cardiovascular conditions.
For now, the study needs further research to confirm its findings, however, early findings point towards a potential threat for recovering patients. As scientists’ understanding of COVID-19 is still progressing, studies such as the one conducted by NTU are uncovering the potential long-term effects of the viral infection that has affected so many.
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